TRIP Reports: Tennessee Motorists Lose $6 Billion Per Year On Roads

Tennessee Motorists Lose $6 Billion Per Year On Roads That Are Rough, Congested & Lack Some Safety Features – As Much As $2,000 Per Driver. Costs Will Rise And Conditions Will Worsen Without Increased Funding

Roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack some desirable safety features cost Tennessee motorists a total of $6 billion statewide annually – as much as $2.019 per driver in some areas – due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. Increased investment in transportation improvements at the local and state levels could relieve traffic congestion, improve road, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in Tennessee, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation organization.

The TRIP report, Tennessee Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout Tennessee, nearly a quarter of major, locally and state-maintained urban roads are in poor or mediocre condition and five percent of Tennessee’s locally and state-maintained bridges are structurally deficient. The state’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested with travel up nine percent between 2013 and 2016, with drivers wasting significant amounts of time and fuel each year. And traffic fatalities in Tennessee increased by eight percent from 2015 to 2016.

Driving on deficient Tennessee roads costs the state’s drivers $6 billion per year in the form of extra vehicle operating costs (VOC) as a result of driving on roads in need of repair, lost time and fuel due to congestion-related delays, and the costs of traffic crashes in which the lack of adequate roadway safety features likely were a contributing factor. The TRIP report calculates the cost to motorists of insufficient roads in the Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville urban areas. A breakdown of the costs per motorist in each area along with a statewide total is below.

 

The TRIP report finds that 11 percent of Tennessee’s major locally and state-maintained urban roads and highways have pavements in poor condition, while 13 percent are rated in mediocre condition. Thirteen percent of major urban roads are in fair condition and the remaining 63 percent are rated in good condition. Driving on deteriorated roads costs Tennessee drivers $1.3 billion annually in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.

“The very foundation of traffic safety is our roadways. Our roads and bridges must be adequate in capacity and must be maintained properly,” said Stephanie Milani, Tennessee public affairs director, AAA—The Auto Club Group. “AAA supports a well-funded transportation system with a comprehensive approach to safety, and so do the drivers on our roads. In fact, approximately two-thirds of adult drivers believe the federal government should invest more to improve roadways, according to a recent survey by AAA. The numbers from TRIP are staggering and show the urgency for a comprehensive transportation funding plan.”

Traffic congestion in the state’s major urban areas is worsening, causing as many as 45 annual hours of delay for the average motorist and costing each driver up to $1,168 annually in lost time and wasted fuel. Traffic congestion robs commuters of time and money and imposes increased costs on businesses, shippers and manufacturers, which are often passed along to the consumer.

Five percent of Tennessee’s bridges are structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components.

Traffic crashes in Tennessee claimed the lives of 4,965 people between 2012 and 2016, an average of 993 fatalities per year. The number of fatalities increased eight percent from 2015 to 2016, from 958 to 1,036. Tennessee’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.25 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is higher than the national average of 1.13.

The efficiency and condition of Tennessee’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $619 billion in goods are shipped to and from sites in Tennessee, mostly by truck. Seventy-six percent of the goods shipped annually to and from sites in Tennessee are carried by trucks and another 14 percent are carried by courier services or multiple mode deliveries, which include trucking.

“The condition of Tennessee’s transportation system will worsen in the future without additional funding, leading to even higher costs for drivers,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “In order to promote economic growth, foster quality of life and get drivers safety and efficiently to their destination, Tennessee will

Ten Key Transportation Numbers in Tennessee

 

$6 billion

Driving on deficient roads costs Tennessee motorists a total of $6 billion annually in the form of additional vehicle operating costs (VOC), congestion-related delays and traffic crashes.
Chattanooga- $1,471

Knoxville – $1,376

Memphis – $2,019

Nashville – $1,667

TRIP has calculated the cost to the average motorist in the state’s largest urban areas in the form of additional VOC, congestion-related delays and traffic crashes. Drivers in the state’s largest urban areas incur annual costs as a result of driving on deficient roads as follows: Chattanooga, $1,471; Knoxville, $1,376; Memphis, $2,019; and, Nashville, $1,667.
4,965

993

8%

A total of 4,965 people were killed in Tennessee traffic crashes from 2012 to 2016, an average of 993 fatalities annually. Traffic fatalities increased eight percent from 2015 to 2016, from 958 to 1,036.
 

9%

20%

Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in Tennessee increased by nine percent from 2013 to 2016 –from 71.1 billion VMT to 77.7 billion VMT.   By 2030, vehicle travel in Tennessee is projected to increase by another 20 percent.
2.5X The fatality rate on Tennessee’s rural roads is more than two and a half times greater than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state (2.35 fatalities per 100 million VMT vs. 0.91).
 

1/4

Approximately one-quarter of Tennessee’s major urban roads are in either poor or mediocre condition, with 11 percent rated in poor condition and 13 percent rated in mediocre condition.
$619 Billion Annually, $619 billion in goods are shipped to and from sites in Tennessee, mostly by truck.
 

$5.7 Billion

$1.9 Billion

Traffic crashes in Tennessee imposed a total of $5.7 billion in economic costs in 2015. TRIP estimates that traffic crashes in which roadway features were likely a contributing factor imposed $1.9 billion in economic costs in 2015.
Chattanooga- 28 hours

Knoxville – 35 hours

Memphis – 43 hours

Nashville – 45 hours

Mounting congestion robs drivers of time and fuel. Annual time wasted in congestion for drivers in the state’s largest urban areas is as follows: Chattanooga, 28 hours; Knoxville, 35 hours; Memphis, 43 hours; and, Nashville, 45 hours.
 

$1.00 = $5.20

The Federal Highway Administration estimates that each dollar spent on road, highway and bridge improvements results in an average benefit of $5.20 in the form of reduced vehicle maintenance costs, reduced delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, reduced road and bridge maintenance costs, and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow.

Executive Summary

Nine years after the nation suffered a significant economic downturn, Tennessee’s economy continues to rebound. The rate of economic growth in Tennessee, which is greatly impacted by the reliability and condition of the state’s transportation system, has a significant impact on quality of life in the Volunteer State.

An efficient, safe and well-maintained transportation system provides economic and social benefits by affording individuals access to employment, housing, healthcare, education, goods and services, recreation, entertainment, family, and social activities. It also provides businesses access to suppliers, markets and employees, all critical to a business’ level of productivity and ability to expand. Reduced accessibility and mobility – as a result of traffic congestion, a lack of adequate capacity, or deteriorated roads, highways, bridges and transit facilities – diminishes a region’s quality of life by reducing economic productivity and limiting opportunities for economic, health or social transactions and activities.

With an economy based largely on manufacturing, agriculture, natural resource extraction and tourism, the quality of Tennessee’s transportation system plays a vital role in the state’s economic growth and quality of life.

In this report, TRIP looks at the top transportation numbers in Tennessee as the state addresses modernizing and maintaining its system of roads, highways, bridges and transit.

COST TO TENNESSEE MOTORISTS OF DEFICIENT ROADS

An inadequate transportation system costs Tennessee motorists a total of $6 billion every year in the form of additional vehicle operating costs (VOC), congestion-related delays and traffic crashes.

  • Driving on rough roads costs Tennessee motorists a total of $1.3 billion annually in extra vehicle operating costs. Costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.
  • Traffic crashes in which roadway design was likely a contributing factor cost Tennessee motorists a total of $1.9 billion each year in the form of lost household and workplace productivity, insurance and other financial costs.
  • Traffic congestion costs Tennessee motorists a total of $2.8 billion each year in the form of lost time and wasted fuel.
  • The chart below details the average cost per driver in the state’s largest urban areas and statewide.

POPULATION, TRAVEL AND ECONOMIC TRENDS IN TENNESSEE

The rate of population and economic growth in Tennessee have resulted in increased demands on the state’s major roads and highways, leading to increased wear and tear on the transportation system.

  • Tennessee’s population reached approximately 6.7 million residents in 2016, a 17 increase since 2000. Tennessee had approximately 4.6 million licensed drivers in 2015.
  • Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in Tennessee increased by 18 percent from 2000 to 2016 –from 65.7 billion VMT in 2000 to 77.7 billion VMT in 2016.
  • Vehicle travel in Tennessee has increased nine percent in the last three years (2013-2016).
  • From 2000 to 2015, Tennessee’s gross domestic product, a measure of the state’s economic output, increased by 25 percent, when adjusted for inflation. U.S. GDP increased 27 percent during this time.
  • By 2030, vehicle travel in Tennessee is projected to increase by another 20 percent.

TENNESSEE ROAD CONDITIONS

A lack of adequate state and local funding has resulted in nearly one quarter of major urban roads and highways in Tennessee having pavement surfaces in poor or mediocre condition, providing a rough ride and costing motorists in the form of additional vehicle operating costs.

  • The pavement data in this report, which is for all arterial and collector roads and highways, is provided by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), based on data submitted annually by the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) on the condition of major state and locally maintained roads and highways.
  • Pavement data for Interstate highways and other principal arterials is collected for all system mileage, whereas pavement data for minor arterial and all collector roads and highways is based on sampling portions of roadways as prescribed by FHWA to insure that the data collected is adequate to provide an accurate assessment of pavement conditions on these roads and highways.
  • Eleven percent of Tennessee’s major locally and state-maintained urban roads and highways have pavements in poor condition, while 13 percent are rated in mediocre condition. Thirteen percent of major urban roads are in fair condition and the remaining 63 percent are rated in good condition.
  • Overall, eight percent of Tennessee’s major locally and state-maintained roads and highways have pavements in poor condition, while 14 percent are in mediocre condition. Sixteen percent of the state’s major roads are rated in fair condition and the remaining 61 percent are rated in good condition.
  • The chart below details the share of pavement in poor, mediocre, fair and good condition in the state’s largest urban areas.

  • Roads rated in mediocre to poor condition may show signs of deterioration, including rutting, cracks and potholes. In some cases, these roads can be resurfaced, but often are too deteriorated and must be reconstructed.
  • Driving on rough roads costs Tennessee motorists a total of $1.3 billion annually in extra vehicle operating costs. Costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.

TENNESSEE BRIDGE CONDITIONS

Five percent of locally and state-maintained bridges in Tennessee show significant deterioration. This includes all bridges that are 20 feet or more in length.

  • Five percent of Tennessee’s bridges are structurally deficient. A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks and emergency services vehicles.
  • The chart below details the share of structurally deficient bridges in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville.

 

HIGHWAY SAFETY AND FATALITY RATES IN TENNESSEE

Improving safety features on Tennessee’s roads and highways would likely result in a decrease in the state’s traffic fatalities and serious crashes. It is estimated that roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of all fatal and serious traffic crashes.

  • A total of 4,965 people were killed in Tennessee traffic crashes from 2012 to 2016, an average of 993 fatalities per year. The number of traffic fatalities in the state increased eight percent from 2015 to 2016, from 958 to 1,036.
  • Tennessee’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.25 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2015 was higher than the national average of 1.13.
  • The fatality rate on Tennessee’s non-interstate rural roads in 2015 was more than two and a half times greater than on all other roads in the state (2.35 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel vs. 0.91).
  • The chart below details the average number of people killed in traffic crashes from 2013 to 2015 in the state’s largest urban areas, as well as the cost per motorist of traffic crashes.

  • Traffic crashes in Tennessee imposed a total of $5.7 billion in economic costs in 2015. TRIP estimates that traffic crashes in which roadway features were likely a contributing factor imposed $1.9 billion in economic costs in 2015.
  • According to a 2015 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, the economic costs of traffic crashes includes work and household productivity losses, property damage, medical costs, rehabilitation costs, legal and court costs, congestion costs and emergency services.
  • Roadway features that impact safety include the number of lanes, lane widths, lighting, lane markings, rumble strips, shoulders, guard rails, other shielding devices, median barriers and intersection design. The cost of serious crashes includes lost productivity, lost earnings, medical costs and emergency services.
  • Several factors are associated with vehicle crashes that result in fatalities, including driver behavior, vehicle characteristics and roadway features. TRIP estimates that roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of fatal traffic crashes.
  • Where appropriate, highway improvements can reduce traffic fatalities and crashes while improving traffic flow to help relieve congestion. Such improvements include removing or shielding obstacles; adding or improving medians; improved lighting; adding rumble strips, wider lanes, wider and paved shoulders; upgrading roads from two lanes to four lanes; and better road markings and traffic signals.
  • Investments in rural traffic safety have been found to result in significant reductions in serious traffic crashes. A 2012 report by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) found that improvements completed recently by the Texas Department of Transportation that widened lanes, improved shoulders and made other safety improvements on 1,159 miles of rural state roadways resulted in 133 fewer fatalities on these roads in the first three years after the improvements were completed (as compared to the three years prior).   TTI estimates that the improvements on these roads are likely to save 880 lives over 20 years.

 TENNESSEE TRAFFIC CONGESTION

Increasing levels of traffic congestion cause significant delays in Tennessee, particularly in its larger urban areas, choking commuting and commerce. Traffic congestion robs commuters of time and money and imposes increased costs on businesses, shippers and manufacturers, which are often passed along to the consumer.

  • Based on Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) estimates, the value of lost time and wasted fuel in Tennessee is approximately $2.8 billion per year.
  • The chart below details the number of hours lost to congestion by the average driver in the state’s largest urban areas, as well as the annual cost of traffic congestion per driver in the form of lost time and wasted fuel.

  • Increasing levels of congestion add significant costs to consumers, transportation companies, manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers and can reduce the attractiveness of a location to a company when considering expansion or where to locate a new facility. Congestion costs can also increase overall operating costs for trucking and shipping companies, leading to revenue losses, lower pay for drivers and employees, and higher consumer costs. 

TRANSPORTATION FUNDING IN TENNESSEE

Investment in Tennessee’s roads, highways and bridges is funded by local, state and federal governments. The current five-year federal surface transportation program includes modest funding increases and provides states with greater funding certainty, but falls far short of providing the level of funding needed to meet the nation’s highway and transit needs. The bill does not include a long-term and sustainable revenue source.

  • According to the 2015 AASHTO Transportation Bottom Line Report, a significant boost in investment in the nation’s roads, highways, bridges and public transit systems is needed to improve their condition and to meet the nation’s transportation needs.
  • AASHTO’s report found that based on an annual one percent increase in VMT annual investment in the nation’s roads, highways and bridges needs to increase 36 percent, from $88 billion to $120 billion, to improve conditions and meet the nation’s mobility needs,. Investment in the nation’s public transit system needs to increase from $17 billion to $43 billion.
  • The Bottom Line Report found that if the national rate of vehicle travel increased by 1.4 percent per year, the needed annual investment in the nation’s roads, highways and bridges would need to increase by 64 percent to $144 billion. If vehicle travel grows by 1.6 percent annually the needed annual investment in the nation’s roads, highways and bridges would need to increase by 77 percent to $156 billion.

TRANSPORTATION AND ECONOMIC GROWTH IN TENNESSEE

The efficiency of Tennessee’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Businesses rely on an efficient and dependable transportation system to move products and services. A key component in business efficiency and success is the level and ease of access to customers, markets, materials and workers.

  • Annually, $619 billion in goods are shipped to and from sites in Tennessee, mostly by truck.
  • Seventy-six percent of the goods shipped annually to and from sites in Tennessee are carried by trucks and another 14 percent are carried by courier services or multiple mode deliveries, which include trucking.
  • Increasingly, companies are looking at the quality of a region’s transportation system when deciding where to re-locate or expand. Regions with congested or poorly maintained roads may see businesses relocate to areas with a smoother, more efficient and more modern transportation system.
  • Highway accessibility was ranked the number two site selection factor behind only the availability of skilled labor in a 2015 survey of corporate executives by Area Development Magazine.
  • The Federal Highway Administration estimates that each dollar spent on road, highway and bridge improvements results in an average benefit of $5.20 in the form of reduced vehicle maintenance costs, reduced delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, reduced road and bridge maintenance costs and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow.

Sources of information for this report include the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the U.S. Census Bureau, the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).